Those were not the most surprising quarterfinals to ever happen.
From Friday to Monday, the first round of playoffs for the League of Legends World Championship took place. Eight teams — four Korean teams, two Chinese, one North American and one European, battled for a chance to keep their hopes of winning the tournament alive.
The first matchup was between the Korean powerhouse T1 and the rather less powerhouse (at least from a public perspective), Hanwha Life Esports. T1 proved its dominance over Chovy and his team once again, dispatching them in three brutally quick games that ended with T1’s Faker obtaining a 7-3-21 scoreline.
It was his teammate Gumayusi who had the best performance — he ended the series with a kda of 13-0-17. He didn’t die in a single game. Toplaner Canna died once. So did support Keria. Their jungler, Oner, died three times in Game 1, but not a single time in Games 2 or 3. This series wasn’t just a win by T1; it was probably the most dominant quarterfinal in recent history. In three games, HLE took eight kills, four turrets and two dragons.
The Korean dominance was put on hold briefly on Saturday for the battle of the Chinese teams, the only series this weekend that was not a 3-0 win. EdWard Gaming and Royal Never Give Up faced off in a best-of-five that saw, for the first time, EDG advance from the quarter
After a loss in game one, EDG bounced back in game two, dominating Cryin’s Annie on the back of top Flandre’s Graves and a good Ezreal performance from Viper. Their superior team fighting also helped them take Game 3. JieJie brought out another great Olaf game, making up for some of his engage struggles in game one and although they again lost first blood, they still claimed the eventual victory.
RNG had an early lead, but a failed attempt to defend top lane and big damage from Flandre, again on Graves, in the midgame swung the pendulum back. The real turning point was 30 minutes in, where the close game was broken by a baron steal from Jiejie and a teamfight win from Viper’s fed Aphelios. After a failed first attack on RNG’s base by EDG, a subsequent team fight in the mid-lane gave more kills to RNG who again started the baron.
And again, Jiejie hopped the wall on Olaf and took the baron for his team. Game four was not nearly as close, with RNG claiming victory after a stellar 4-1-12 Annie game from Cryin, which made up for his earlier struggles on the champion. Wei also performed better, making up for losing two baron that could’ve won them Game 3.
It all came down to the fifth game. EDG drew first blood, though it eventually was a failed one-for-two, but Game 5 was not close. EDG won by 14 kills, 7 turrets and almost 14 thousand gold. Wei struggled once again, going just 2-7-2 on Lee Sin, while EDG’s Viper was 7-1-7 on his Ezreal and Flandre was again allowed to run wild on his Graves.
On Sunday, DWG faced off against MAD Lions in what was … not a close series. It was closer than the T1 series, given that MAD got far more than eight kills, but the only real blowout was Game 1, in which DWG won with a 10k and 13-kill lead. Botlaner Ghost was very good on MissFortune while Kaiser and Carzzy, the bot lane for MAD, struggled.
Game 2was a little closer — MAD lost by less than four thousand gold, and even had the dragon soul and a baron. But they were still not able to beat the superior team-fighting and coordination of the defending world champions who, on the back of Ghost again, coasted to a 2-0 lead that was far from surprising for fans. The real question was whether DWG would keep their unbeaten streak through the end of this series.
And they certainly did. Game 3 wasn’t as close as Game 2, though it also was not Game 1. DWG got 32 kills in a game that lasted just under forty minutes and saw BeryL claim a frightening 10 kills and 11 assists with three deaths on Pyke. It was the kind of dominance that fans have come to expect from the team that is certainly the favorite to win it all in a few weeks, and which still has not lost a game at this world championship.
The final matchup, Gen.G vs. Cloud9, was not expected to be as dramatically one-sided as the DWG vs. MAD matchup. After all, Gen.G struggled through the groups to some extent and only just squeaked by in first, while Cloud9 had shown some resilience by almost beating DWG on the last day of groups — even if their win record was not exceptional.
In the end, it wasn’t as dramatic a difference as the DWG vs. MAD Series, but it was close. Gen.G showed that it is better than their Week 2 performance, as it claimed three pretty easy wins over Cloud9. Jungler Clid was a big part of the victories, as well as botlaner Ruler. They punished Perkz early and often as the midlaner continued to show some uncharacteristic mistakes that could also be seen in some of the group stage matches.
That’s not to say it was just Perkz at fault — no one on Cloud9 had a good day and it was pretty clear from the performance that Gen.G on Monday was just better. But seeing one of Europe’s best mid-laners, previously a finalist at Worlds, struggle as hard as it felt like Perkz did en route to having 14 deaths in three games, should be concerning for Cloud9 fans heading into next spring.
Now we’re left with the semifinals — three Korean teams, one Chinese. Perhaps the most frightening thing, besides the fact that this marks a very clear return to Korean dominance in League, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since T1’s original days, is the fact that to get here, those Korean teams played nine games total in the quarters. None of them dropped a game. If EDG wants to play spoiler when they take on Gen.G this week, they need a different gear. And if anyone wants to take a game off of this DWG, they’ll need something more than that.